The new so-called small overlap frontal offset test, better simulates one of the kinds of particularly deadly or injurious accidents—when the corner of the vehicle impacts another car or a utility pole—by measuring the forces and intrusion when a vehicle is run at 40 mph into a rigid barrier that makes contact with just 25 percent of the vehicle’s front end.
The existing IIHS offset frontal test—now renamed the moderate overlap frontal test—has 40 percent of the vehicle’s front end strike a deformable barrier. While the difference might sound subtle, it makes a big difference in survivability; and that’s reflected in the surprisingly poor performance of some vehicles that have performed well in existing frontal impact tests.
In that group of eleven, only those two models were rated ‘good,’ while only the Infiniti G earned a rating of ‘acceptable.’ The rest of the models offered ‘marginal’ or ‘poor’ protection, with the 2012 Audi A4 and 2012 Lexus ES 350 ranked at the bottom; it should be noted that both of these models are being replaced with all-new 2013 models.
Some embarrassing (and worrisome) results
That said, the performance of a number of some of the models pointed to plenty of room for improvement. The Volkswagen CC completely lost its door in the test—the first time this has ever happened in an IIHS test—while the Mercedes-Benz C-Class pinned the test dummy’s foot below the brake pedal. The test also changes the trajectories of airbag deployment. For instance, in the Lincoln MKZ, the front airbag deployed to the side of the driver’s head and chest, due to sideways motion of the steering column.
2012 Lexus IS 250Enlarge Photo